By Brigitte L. Nacos
The good news is that Paul Ryan is not a Sarah Palin. By selecting Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as running mate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney picked a bright guy who knows the ins and outs of domestic policies better than, if not all of his peers. Never mind that he lacks experience in foreign and defense policy. He will never match the clueless utterings of his predecessor Sarah Palin.
The bad news is that Ryan’s budget plan, embraced by the Republican Party and presidential candidate Romney, would rip to pieces the most important parts of the modest social safety net that provides some protection to senior citizens and the destitute strata. His plan would lower the already historically low tax rates for the highest income groups further at the expense of programs for the middle class and those with the lowest incomes.
The clever selling point here is that allowing the wealthier among us to keep more of their money will turn them into potent job creators and thus would allow the rest of Americans to retain or get a job, work hard, and earn enough for a good living. There would not be any need for a helping hand from government programs.
The problem is that the trickle down scheme does not work. Or, let’s say, it works well for those on top but not at all for the middle and lower classes.
President George W. Bush’s drastic tax cuts, heavily tilted in favor of the highest income groups, contributed mightily to the drastic increase of the federal budget deficit. Congressman Ryan voted for those cuts that kept also all kinds of deductions in place and made the rich richer.
Based on Internal Revenue Service data for 2009, the New York Times reported today that of the 400 individuals with the highest incomes, $202 million on average, six paid no federal income tax at all. Just as revealing, the Times reports,
“Besides the six who paid no federal income tax, the I.R.S. reported that 27 paid from zero to 10 percent of their adjusted gross incomes and another 89 paid between 10 and 15 percent, which is close to the 13.9 percent rate that Mr. Romney disclosed that he paid in 2010. (At the other end of the spectrum, 82 paid 30 to 35 percent. None paid more than 35 percent.) So more than a quarter of the people earning an average of over $200 million in 2009 paid less than 15 percent of their adjusted gross income in taxes” [emphasis added].
Congressman Ryan voted for this kind of unfairness in the tax code; he also voted for the two other major contributors to the budget deficit during the previous administration: the Medicare Part D prescription drug provision that was and remains a financial bonanza for the private insurance industry and, of course, the Iraq War.
In other words, the author of the Ryan budget plan was one of the very politicians responsible for the massive budget deficit that President George W. Bush left behind.
By heeding the Wall Street Journal’s and other Republican ideologues’ advice to pick Paul Ryan as running mate to prove his commitment to ultra-conservative doctrine, Romney became finally one of them. Romney’s has now the stamp of approval of the leading ultra-conservatives and of the conservative/libertarian base most active in the ranks of Tea Partiers.
I agree with the Journal’s editorial page that the choice of Paul Ryan as vice-presidential candidate puts two very different visions and plans of America’s future in front of the electorate.
Will it be pure individualism and capitalism or will there be some commitment to collectivism and capitalism with a human face?
“Whatever doubts Americans may have about Mr. Romney's empathy or background,” the Wall Street Journal’s opinion piece pointed out, “more of them will turn out for him if they see a leader with a vision and plan worthy of the current difficult moment.”
Of course, that “vision and plan” originated with Ryan, not Romney.
That reminds me of Mitt Romney’s Freudian slip this morning. He introduced Paul Ryan as the “next president” of the United States before returning to the pulpit and correcting his error.
For the Obama campaign, Romney's selection of Ryan and his policies is an opportunity to highlight and debate the dramatic contrast between the two campaigns' visions and what each of them would mean for the future of the vast majority of Americans.